Medical pot group gives California ‘B+’ on access report card

By Todd R. Hansen for the Daily Republic

FAIRFIELD — California, one of the original eight states to legalize medical cannabis use, received a “B+” in the 2017 annual report by Americans for Safe Access.

Overall, the organization said there is still a lot of work to do, as none of the 44 states that allow medical marijuana use received an “A” grade. However, the number of states receiving a “B” or higher went from 11 to 19.

“Medical cannabis laws are moving in a positive direction, but only a handful of the 44 medical cannabis states are truly meeting the needs of patients, and there are still six states where cannabis remains completely illegal for patients,” Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, said in a statement released with the annual report.

The grades are based on a formula that reviews the rights of patients, legal constraints and overall accessibility to medical cannabis. California also received a “B+” grade in 2016, the first year the report came out. Americans for Safe Access was formed in 2002.

“In short, we’re seeing a lot of progress, but the fight is far from over. As of 2017, no state cannabis laws are within the ‘A’ range,” Sherer said in the statement. “Only a small minority of states currently include ASA’s criteria of protections and rights that we believe all patients should be afforded under the law.”

The report is not broken down by regions or counties within a state. Solano County has limited access as Vallejo is the only city in the county where medical marijuana can be legally accessed. The city has 10 retail dispensaries.

California’s highest grading (97) came in the categories of “Access” and “Functionality,” while its lowest grading (59) was given for “Product Safety,” the report states.

The poor grade does not mean the marijuana is not safe, according to a written response to a question by the Daily Republic. Instead, Americans for Safe Access said California was docked points on several regulatory fronts.

Those included not requiring training for employees covering state and federal law, or scientific and medical information about cannabis; not requiring adverse event and recall programs; not requiring documentation and protocols for workplace cleaning and sanitation; lack of guidelines on pesticide labeling; and not requiring laboratory method validation according to standards equal to American Herbal Pharmacopoela cannabis studies.

The report, which includes an extensive amount of information about medical cannabis and how it’s governed in various states, also claims that there has never been a death caused by medical cannabis use.

When asked about statistics that show increases in fatal accidents in several states in which the driver tested positive for marijuana, a written response attributed to Dr. Jahan Marcu, stated: “These kinda [sic] of accidents usually always involve multiple substances. It is rare in a fatal car crash that only marijuana is detected. Most drivers who test for cannabis in fatal crashes usually have high levels of alcohol or other drugs, which has been the case well before adult cannabis use programs existed.”